Last season for the Townsville Fire did not go as expected. The Fire ended with a 7-10 record, good for sixth in the league after a late-season fade-out.
Head coach Shannon Seebohm took his recruiting to the next level in the pre-season, signing two WNBA players and retaining their star talent from last season including Lauren Nicholson, Zitina Aukoso, and Steph Reid.
With these fresh, new faces and returning stars, Townsville looks to set the league on fire - pun intended - and climb up the ladder with playoff hopes.
How they did last year
6th (seven wins, 10 losses)
The talent was ever so present last season with Monique Billings, Nicholson, Aukoso, and Reid carrying the bulk of the scoring for the Fire, however, the lack of bench scoring and lackluster defence through a majority of the final stretch of the season was their achilles heel.
The Fire finished with a 7-10 record but began the season with six wins from the first 10 games, although never could win more than two matches in a row, until a six-game losing streak heading into the final game - which they won against eventual runners-up, the Lynx - brought their placing down.
Returning: Lauren Nicholson, Zitina Aukoso, Steph Reid, Courtney Woods, Lara McSpadden, Aliza Fabbro (Development Player)
Ins: Tianna Hawkins (Washington Mystics), Karlie Samuelson, Mikaela Ruef, Morgan Yaeger, Krystal Leger-Walker, Nes’eya Parker-Williams (Development Player), Tia Hay (Development Player)
Outs: Micaela Cocks, Mia Murray, Nadeen Payne, Monique Billings, Sug Sutton, Carla Drennan
Similar to last season, the Fire's biggest strength will remain scoring. The difference between last season and this upcoming season will be the amount of scorers they have.
The returning scorers already are a pivotal and proven part of the team. Those three won't have an issue bringing their scoring offence back. What's different is the addition of Samuelson and Hawkins.
Out of the two, Hawkins has the most professional experience, being an eight-year WNBA veteran. Hawkins is a 6'3 forward but can extend her range to outside of the paint. Journey woman Samuelson can do the exact same with her strength actually coming from beyond-the-arc.
The chemistry between the two is a big strengthening factor for the Fire. Aside from over half of their squad returning, Samuelson and Ruef crossed paths in college for a few seasons at Stanford University. That is something special for a team looking to go forward.
Turnovers haunted Townsville last season. As a team, the Fire averaged 14.1 assists to 13.1 turnovers per game for a measly 1.08 ratio. The only team with a worse ratio were the Sydney Flames with 1.07.
Ball handling and protection are key to this team to climb up the ladder, it doesn't matter how well you shoot your way out of it. If Townsville wants to compete with the best of the best in the WNBL, offensive discipline and a high number of assists is a crucial element that needs to be fixed. With these new additions, there's no doubt this will change for the better.
Prediction for 2022/23 WNBL season
With the return of more of their core and exciting new faces who bolster a ton of talent, the Fire should do enough and address any previous concerns of their game to climb rapidly up the ladder and contend in the finals.
The Townsville Fire begin their 2022/23 WNBL season against the UC Capitals at Townsville Entertainment Centre on Sunday, November 6 from 3pm AEST.